Building a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Movement within Your Coalition: The Journey of PCAR’s LGBTQ Workgroup (from Resource Sharing Project ReShape, Summer 2012)
by Katherine Taylor, Technical Assistance Coordinator and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape’s LGBTQ Workgroup
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape’s (PCAR) LGBTQ Workgroup has had a couple of different starts by various PCAR and National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) staff members. Originally, people came together with specific projects in mind, saw those projects to fruition and dispersed. Then in February 2010, several PCAR and NSVRC staff members branched off of the larger Diversity Workgroup to focus specifically on sexual violence against and within the LGBTQ community.
Internal Support and Continued Education
Gathering internal support from administration was not difficult because many people outside of the group were working on LGBTQ tasks already: staff was trained from the local LGBTQ organization on LGBTQ community resources; work was being done on an LGBTQ information packet; and various staff members had attended LGBTQ trainings. Both staff and administration agreed that organizing our collective energies into a group was a logical next step.
Building our own capacity…
A consistent goal of the LGBTQ Workgroup is to build our own skills and knowledge around sexual violence and the LGBTQ community. This involves attending a wide range of trainings, webinars, and research on anti-oppression work. Our goal is to stay focused on the primary prevention of sexual violence in the LGBTQ community. We optimize our ability to learn by partnering with and learning from anti-violence organizations who work on racial justice, reproductive justice, HIV/AIDS prevention, and various LGBTQ-specific organizations.
Pace of Work and Realistic Expectations
The LGBTQ workgroup is intentional in limiting our scope of work. In other words, we are devoted to following through with small, steady accomplishments while divvying up large tasks over a longer period of time. We recognize that we are all very busy with multiple projects, so taking on too much would be counterproductive. We also recognize that in order to make social change happen, our motivation must be sustainable over the long term. By looking at our work through this lens, we have been able to consistently accomplish tasks across a two-year period while simultaneously planning future year’s projects as we dream of them.
PCAR’s LGBTQ Workgroup is not funded by any specific grant. Knowing this has also helped keep our expectations and pace of work at a slow, steady level. We utilize several strategies to fund various projects. One is that we pay close attention to various funding streams outside of PCAR and ask that other staff keep their eyes open for possible grants.
Another strategy is to not let funding get in the way of accomplishing a specific task. For example, we recently published a brochure entitled, Victims and Survivors of Sexual Violence: Info for individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning. The LGBTQ Workgroup wrote the content and designed the brochure, then found money internally from other funding streams to support the printing. We have found that it is much easier to get a project funded when it is a finished product rather than holding an idea until we secure funding.
Getting realistically organized…
At the beginning of each year, we set aside a couple of meetings to capture all the goals we would like to accomplish. We determine who will be responsible for leading those tasks and an approximate month the task will be completed. This “master list” guides our efforts and is revisited often to ensure that we are on track or if changes need to be made.
Involving Pennsylvania Rape Crisis Centers
The LGBTQ Workgroup exists, in large part, to further build the knowledge and skills of local Pennsylvania rape crisis centers around issues specific to the LGBTQ community. The following are a few examples of how our work has been used with local rape crisis centers:
- In-person and webinar trainings
- Partnering on exhibit tables for both Pride and the local Gay/Straight Alliance Summit
- Email announcements regarding Pride month
- An email group for specific LGBTQ information regarding sexual violence
- Technical assistance around LGBTQ-specific needs
- Daily LGBTQ newsfeed consisting of various LGBTQ sexual violence topics
In particular, the LGBTQ Workgroup has worked diligently to develop a webpage within the larger PCAR website specific to the LGBTQ community and sexual violence.
The LGBTQ Workgroup consists of PCAR and NSVRC staff members. The membership ranges between 5 and 8 members who are from a variety of departments including Communications, Training and Technical Assistance, Library, and Special Projects. We are always welcome new members and actively seek to fill membership when others leave.
In addition to the regular members, the LGBTQ Workgroup welcomes “auxiliary members,” or people who have LGBTQ interests but cannot commit to a workgroup. These members assist with staffing information tables at events, baking for internal LGBTQ potluck celebrations, etc. They might also attend webinars or in-person trainings as their calendars permit.
An important rule of the membership is that anyone, at any time, for any reason can take a break from the Workgroup and they will be welcomed back. This rule is not only important because we want members to take care of themselves emotionally, but also because each of us is responsible for large projects that are due at critical times throughout the year. Being able to take a break and come back has allowed several workgroup members to stay involved without pressure to perform during their peak times.
Successes and challenges
The LGBTQ Workgroup has had many successes over 2½ years. Some examples include:
- Resource and research development. The workgroup consistently adds articles, books, and other online resources to our libraries’ collection as well as updates to the webpage.
- LGBTQ Information Packet. PCAR/NSVRC, along with the Center for Disease Control and the Office of Violence Against Women, have collaborated on an information packet that covers a wide range of topics about the LGBTQ community and sexual violence prevention.
- Trainings, workshops and webinars. Last year, the workgroup provided six trainings to various audiences.
- Community events. In 2011, the workgroup attended four community events (some with local rape crisis center staff). We participated in the Pride Festival of Central PA, screened movies and members of the workgroup spoke at the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Harrisburg.
- Conferences and summits. Members of the workgroup presented workshops, staffed information tables, and sponsored various local and national conferences.
We have also experienced a few setbacks. One of our dreams was to have a one day summit specifically for the Pennsylvania rape crisis center staff around general community education and specifically on practical tips to counsel and reach out to LGBTQ victim/survivors. Unfortunately, the funding for this project did not come through so it has been put on our to-do list for 2013. Other setbacks include losing key members. Overall, our successes have helped us to shape our future goals and learn how to manage our goals effectively.
The future of the LGBTQ workgroup is one that is ever-evolving. On our list for 2012/2013:
- The LGBTQ Summit. A one-day summit for Pennsylvania rape crisis center staff on both novice and intermediate issues regarding sexual violence and the LGBTQ community.
- Media talking points. The workgroup will start a file with up-to-date talking points for both internal Communications staff and external media sources that need quick facts and figures regarding both the LGBTQ community and how sexual violence affects victim/survivors who identify as LGBTQ.
- Healthy sexuality. Keeping in line with primary prevention, the workgroup plans to direct our current trainings and publications toward a healthy sexuality model.
- National initiatives and partnerships. As we have solidified a Pennsylvania focus, we would like to embark on national networks to begin working with other coalitions and national partners.
- eLearning Tool. The workgroup will begin working on a template for an e-learning tool regarding sexual violence and oppression against the LGBTQ community.
- Trainings, webinars and podcasts. There are several trainings, webinars and podcasts we are planning that will address prevention and healthy sexuality in the LGBTQ community.